Funeral Oration

George WASHINGTON   |   Henry LEE

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“FIRST IN WAR, FIRST IN PEACE, AND FIRST IN THE HEARTS OF HIS COUNTRYMEN”: RARE BOSTON EDITION, ISSUED SAME YEAR THE FIRST, OF HENRY LEE’S FUNERAL ORATION ON THE DEATH OF WASHINGTON

(WASHINGTON, George) LEE, Henry. Funeral Oration on the Death of General Washington. Deliver, at the Request of Congress. Boston: Printed for Joseph Nancrede and Manning & Loring, [1800]. Octavo, later blue paper wrappers; pp. 15. Housed in a custom clamshell box.

Scarce 1800 edition, issued in Boston the same year as the very rare Philadelphia first edition, one of the very earliest printings of Henry Lee’s immortal oration on the death of George Washington, which contains for the first time in print the famous phrase, “first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen.”

By the time of his death in late 1799, “George Washington had poured his last ounce of passion into the creation of his country… History records few examples of a leader who so earnestly wanted to do the right thing, not just for himself but for his country… He had indeed been the indispensable man of the American Revolution” (Chernow, 812). Of the many funeral orations delivered at Washington’s death, Henry Lee’s official oration, delivered before Congress, is the most famous and memorable. Lee, known as “Light-Horse Harry” Lee, was personally summoned by Washington in 1776 to join the Continental Army, in which he served Washington faithfully. At Washington’s death Lee, then a Federalist Representative from Virginia, was charged with drafting a congressional resolution commemorating the great leader. In the resolution and, a few days later, in this address delivered before the Congress on December 26, 1799 in Philadelphia, Lee called Washington “first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen.” This timeless phrase offers “an elegantly concise summation of the three historical achievements on which his reputation rests: leading the Continental army against the odds… securing the Revolution by overseeing the establishment of a new nation-state during its most fragile and formative phase of development; and embodying that elusive and still latent thing called ‘the American people… no one else could have performed these elemental tasks as well, and perhaps that no one could have performed them at all” (Ellis, 270). This exceptionally early 1800 edition is preceded the same year by the Philadelphia first edition and the Kirk Boston edition; it appears prior to the second Philadelphia (Hoff) edition of the same year. OCLC lists 19 copies: including those at Harvard, Library of Congress, American Antiquarian Society, Stanford and the University of Virginia. Evans 37804. Sabin 39747. ESTC W20355. See Stillwell, Washington Eulogies 131; Church 1290.

Text fresh with only lightest scattered foxing. An especially desirable near-fine copy.

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